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From sea to shining sea: conservation and the U.S. Navy.


The U.S. Navy strives to be a good steward of the environment while carrying out its primary mission of national security at sea. On its bases, which encompass 2.1 million acres (0.8 million hectares) of land, and in surrounding areas, the Navy manages ecosystems that support more than 100 federally listed species. These lands are distributed across seven "Navy regions" in the United States.

Many of the Navy's conservation successes stem from using ecosystem principles as the foundation of its Integrated Natural Resources Management Plans (INRMPs). INRMPs are designed to ensure that species populations can thrive while ensuring that there is a no net loss to critical training and operations. The following examples from the Pacific Southwest and along the Atlantic Coast illustrate some of the Navy's successful INRMP-driven conservation programs.

Flagship Efforts in the Pacific Southwest

Navy lands in the Southwest contain some of the nation's most diverse ecosystems in terms of plant and wildlife communities. Due to massive growth and urbanization, Navy lands have become some of the last remaining islands of biodiversity within a sea of development. In cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Navy's coastal and inland installations in this region work to conserve more than 40 federally listed species. Two island ecosystems, San Clemente Island (SCI) and San Nicolas Island (SNI), highlight the Navy's efforts. SCI has the highest number of endemic species of all the California Channel Islands. It is part of the southern California Range Complex, a Navy range that supports simultaneous ship to shore, air to ground, and ground troop training. The Navy's natural resources programs have dramatically benefitted the San Clemente loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus mearnsi), once considered the most endangered bird in North America. Its numbers have increased from a low of 13 to about 300. Six of the island's listed plants are also showing trends toward recovery.

San Nicolas Island supports research, development, testing, and evaluation of air weapons and associated aircraft systems while managing two federally listed species and four marine mammals. Some of California's threatened southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) were translocated from coastal waters to SNI several decades ago to create a separate population in case the main population is struck by a catastrophic oil spill or disease event. The SNI population now numbers 30 to 40 adults. Our management programs at both SCI and SNI have prevented the need for federal listing of island fox (Urocyon littoralis) subspecies on Navy islands and has also supported a request for delisting of the island night lizard (Xantusia riversiana) due to recovery.


Mainland resources found on Naval Base Coronado, Naval Base Ventura County, and Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach are key contributors toward the recovery of the California least tern (Sterna antillarum browni). This bird's nesting numbers have dramatically increased in conjunction with management programs began in the early 1980s. In addition, management of beach and dune ecosystems as well as coastal marshes on many Navy installations has proven effective for the western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus), salt marsh bird's-beak (Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. maritimus), and light-footed clapper rail (Rallus longirostris levipes). Our management of inland ecosystems, including coastal sage scrub and riparian areas, has benefited the Quino checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha quino), arroyo toad (Bufo californicus), coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica), least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus), and Stephens' kangaroo rat (Dipodomys stephensi). The last four of these species are managed in concert with the Navy munitions storage mission at Detachment Fallbrook.

The Tortoise and the Hare

Installations in the Navy's Southeast region encompass more than 130,000 acres (52,609 ha) across seven states and Cuba (Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Cuba). These properties support habitat for more than 30 federally-listed species and other state-listed species. The unique plants and animals range from delicate flowers to huge whales, from Caribbean corals to ancient cactus plants, and from the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) to the lower keys marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris hefneri). For many of these species, Navy properties contain some of the last vestiges of their habitat. In addition to our own management efforts, partnerships (such as Southeast Regional Partnership for Planning and Sustainability) allow the Navy to collaborate with other interests on the recovery of listed species while supporting its military mission.



Many of the Navy's efforts in the Southeast focus on range-wide conservation and management, specifically in the native longleaf pine ecosystem. Listed species such as the endangered reticulated flatwoods salamander (Ambystoma bishopi), Mississippi gopher frog (Rana capito), and eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi), as well as keystone species like the gopher tortoise, depend on this ecosystem. On Naval Air Station Whiting Field's Outlying Landing Field Holley, a cooperative effort with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowed habitat managers to conduct a prescribed burn, which benefits fire-adapted species like the salamander. The effectiveness of restoring fire to the longleaf forest was demonstrated by the discovery of a gravid (pregnant) adult female flatwoods salamander where no individuals had been documented in 12 years.

A significant portion of the lower keys marsh rabbit population can be found on Naval Air Station Key West. Navy ecosystem management strategies focus on eliminating invasive plant species, restoring native plants, prescribed burning, and predator control.

The Navy's management efforts often encompass estuarine and near-shore environments. The West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus) is an endangered species that can be found at several Navy installations in coastal waters of Georgia and Florida. The Navy program centers on methods to avoid manatees, such as the use of no-wake zones, manatee lookouts, manatee sightings reporting, and elimination of such human-caused attractants as freshwater discharges.

For additional information about the Navy's natural resources programs, as well as news about energy and environmental initiatives, we invite you to explore Currents, the Navy's environmental magazine. It can be found online at, or by visiting the Navy's energy, environment, and climate change website at



For more information please contact Tammy Conkle, with the Navy Installations Command in Washington, D.C., at or 202-433-4482. Lorri Schwartz, a natural resources specialist with the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Headquarters. in Washington, D.C., can be reached at
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Author:Conkle, Tammy; Schwartz, Lorri
Publication:Endangered Species Bulletin
Date:Mar 22, 2011
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